Be careful whom you wish for [The Economist]On August 15th [Noda] aroused the ire of South Korea, a country that [current prime minister] Mr Kan has steadfastly and sensitively courted, by reaffirming a nonsensical argument he aired six years ago. It claims that Japan’s 14 Class-A war criminals who are buried at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo were not, in fact, war criminals.
Some legal commentators have made a similar point in the past, arguing that Japanese law does not recognise the verdicts of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which convicted them. Legal hair-splitting aside however, Japan’s government accepted the verdicts as part of the 1952 San Francisco peace treaty, Article 11 of which begins: “Japan accepts the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan, and will carry out the sentences imposed thereby upon Japanese nationals imprisoned in Japan.”
The bizarre part of Mr Noda’s argument is that he says the San Francisco treaty “restored the honour” of all Japan’s war criminals. When he made this point to Junichiro Koizumi in 2005, in response to the then-prime minister’s controversial visit to Yasukuni, even Mr Koizumi said he did not know what Mr Noda was talking about.
The Korean will reiterate his previous position: despite the occasional nationalistic spasms, Koreans are ready to love Japan. Koreans already consume Japanese products in droves despite incredibly high tariffs. Japanese cartoons are so popular in Korea that they essentially merged in as a part of Korean culture. You cannot have a conversation with hipster Koreans without watching the latest Japanese movies and dramas. Koreans provided a huge outpouring support when Japan suffered the massive damage from the recent earthquake and tsunami. The only thing – literally, the last possible thing – that is holding Koreans back from completely embracing Japan is that Japan is constantly provoking their nationalist sentiments that Koreans are generally happy to ignore otherwise.
This is doubly disappointing because it is not as if Noda is Shintaro Ishihara, a governor of Tokyo and certifiable right-wing nutjob who famously claimed that Rape of Nanking was a Chinese fiction. Noda belongs to the same party as Kan Naoto, the left-over-center Democratic Party that has been more willing to accept Imperial Japan's war crimes.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.